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I don’t know why I caught the bug, but I did.  I think the flame had kindled when I started wanting a set of molding planes.  The big name that I’ve seen is Matt Bickford – a set of his planes is in the ballpark of $3000.  I honestly don’t have that kind of money laying around… yet.  So I put the idea on the back burner for a bit.  Then, while I was daydreaming (which consists of Google searches on the subject) about molding planes, I came across a guy (over at Toolerable) that is attempting to build a set himself.  Then I started researching that Matt Bickford had started the same way – he didn’t have the money to get a ton of molding planes, so he researched and built himself a set.  Perhaps this is the path I should take?

One post back on Toolerable, and Brian created this beautiful maple jointer plane.  At this point, I’m inspired.  So I went on over to David Finck’s site (who explains how to make these Krenovian-style wooden planes) and bought the book and DVD.  I figured a standard hand plane is a good way to start learning how to build one before I venture into specialty planes, like ones for moldings.

I had bought some smaller figured Bubinga boards for use on small projects… perhaps for making one of those Roubo iPad stands or a dry erase pen holder.  I did both of those with one of the two boards I bought.  And then it dawned on me: I think the other board, once cut and laminated up, would make a beautiful plane!

Figured Bubinga board

Since I already have a large, heavy jointer plane, I think I’m gonna shoot for the jack of all trades: a Jack Plane.  Now, I already have one (from the beginner’s package I had bought from Lie-Nielsen), but it’s a low-angle Jack Plane; the one I want to build will be at a York pitch of 50°.  Why the York?  Because so far, all of the work I’ve done and want to continue to do, has been on hardwoods: Beech, Elm, Walnut and Mahogany.

A brief explanation of what certain angles of blade (ie, the pitch) buy you:

  • Low Angle – 40° or less: low angle pitchthis acts more as a knife slicing through the fibers of the wood.  Therefore, this is particularly good for trimming and slicing through the finicky end-grain.  Most planes with a low-angle pitch have a bevel-up setup, so if you add the bed angle (usually 10-15°) and the blade hone/bevel angle (usually ~25°), you get about a ~40° total pitch.  The advantage is the razor-sharp knife slice that allows the trimming of the end-grain; the downfall is that the blade is much more prone to lose it’s razor-sharp edge quicker (or even chip in some cases)
  • Common Pitch – 45°: 45 degree pitchapparently, most planes are set to this because it’s the best trade-off of slicing the wood and maintaining your sharp edge.  Hundreds of years of plane use have shown that this is the most optimum angle for softwoods and straight-grained hardwoods.  Consider this giving the most versatile options in planing.  The bevel is down from here on as the angles increase, so the bed angle is the pitch angle.
  • York Pitch – 50°: 50 deg pitchOptimum for hardwoods and especially figured hardwoods.
  • Middle Pitch – 55°: Mostly found in molding planes designed for softwoods.
  • Half Pitch – 60°: Mostly found in molding planes designed for hardwoods.
  • 70°+: Used mainly in more specialized planes such as snipes and some rabbet planes.

So, from the book and everything I’ve researched, it seems like it’s ok to laminate up a blank or  use a whole log… hell, I’ve even read to where the direction of the grain (where it will expand or contract perpendicular to the growth rings) isn’t that big of deal… but the one thing that I’ve seen that you must absolutely follow is to ensure the slope of the grain runs down toward the back of the blank (or eventually, the plane).  Here’s my 15″-long blank, with the super-imposed grain run.  Really though, in my case the majority of the grain runs this way, but the grain in this wavy Bubinga is all over the place…

Bubinga Plane Blank with Grain runNext is to get this block exactly square… and then truthfully, it will probably sit until after I move (T minus 5 weeks) and get to it – I still have to order a blade.  I’m going to get a 1¾” blade with a chip breaker – but now I’m trying to decide if I should order a blade from David Finck or get one from Lie-Nielsen… To be continued.

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  • Brian Eve

    Hi Snakeye,

    Thanks for the plug.

    Great post! Good luck with the jack plane. It looks like it will be beautiful. The laminated approach should make it easier for you to do this project with hand tools.

    Brian